First published in The Times, Tuesday August 20 2019
One of the highlights of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe was the musical My Left/Right Foot from the Birds of Paradise theatre company. Focused on a hapless am-dram troupe’s endeavours to win an award by embracing diversity, the show poked merciless fun at the long line of able-bodied actors being lauded as “brave” and rewarded with Oscars for playing disabled roles.
First published in The Times, Friday August 16 2019
Tanika Gupta’s adaptation of the bestselling memoir by Jackie Kay, Scotland’s makar (national poet), is full of moments that break the heart and stir joy. It was almost bound to be. The book, which weaves the author’s 20-year search for her birth family with memories of her upbringing as the mixed-race, adopted daughter of white Scottish parents, is written with an irresistible vitality and generosity of spirit. Its universality comes from its attempt to address the great mystery of what makes us who we are.
First published in The Times, Monday August 12 2019
The company 1927, known for mixing live performance with animation, is always warmly received in Edinburgh. Its debut production, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, won a clutch of awards at the Fringe in 2007. The troupe’s collaboration with Barrie Kosky on an expressionist version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was the big hit of the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) programme.
First published in The Times, Monday August 20 2018
In Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella, The Malady of Death, a man pays a woman to spend time with him at a seaside hotel in order that he might “try to love”. The author sought to recreate on the page the immediacy of the theatre: the spare text is reminiscent of a script with stage directions. At one point, Duras describes the room in which her characters meet as a “theatre”.
First published in The Times, Tuesday August 29 2017
Perhaps the highest compliment you can pay an actor is that they could read from the phonebook and still make it engaging. Letters Live, in which well-known (and not so well-known) personalities read from significant correspondence, obviously provides the performers with far greater scope than the Yellow Pages. Yet, perhaps inevitably, the show, which has toured widely, attracting A-list participants, proves something of a mixed postbag.
First published in The Times, Monday August 21 2017
Festivals love a good anniversary. When Verdi’s Macbeth was staged at the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival back in 1947, it was to mark the centenary year of the opera’s first ever performance. Seventy years on, this new production, from Teatro Regio Torino, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, has been programmed as part of the EIF’s own birthday celebrations.
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 9 2017
Meow Meow has long been a favourite among Edinburgh audiences for her appearances in outrageous solo shows such as Feline Intimate, not to mention last year’s triumph as the singing star of Barry Humphries’ Weimar Cabaret. This year, the Australian cabaret diva known for her bendy physique, onstage acrobatics and above-the-stage aerial flights occupies an even loftier perch at the International Festival: the Hub at the top of the Royal Mile, where she has taken up residence for much of August.
First published in The Times, Friday August 26 2016
What a pity for Thomas Ostermeier that the legendary Moira Knox is no longer alive to see his raucous Shakespeare adaptation. The production, which originated at Berlin’s renowned Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, contains all the ingredients that would have had the late Tory councillor and self-appointed guardian of public decency frothing at the mouth and therefore guaranteeing the director an Edinburgh International Festival smash hit.
First published in The Times, Monday August 22 2016
The prospect of a second co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the New York-based Theatre of the Emerging Moment (TEAM) is mouth-watering. Their first collaborative piece, Architecting, which drew on characters from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind to show how history is constructed through popular culture, won awards at the fringe in 2008.
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 10 2016
The prologue is delivered by a narrator draped in a white sheet, like one of the ghosts from Scooby Doo, but that isn’t the oddest aspect of this collaboration between two of Ireland’s leading performance companies. The dream-like collage that follows includes a sequence in which the front and back ends of a pantomime horse attempt to pull in different directions and the arrival of a choir singing about decomposition. David Lynch would be proud.